Womacks celebrate their American roots
Written by David Dupont   
Friday, 26 July 2013 15:05
The Americana band The Womack Family is getting to be more family all the time.
Two of the members are engaged to be married, and another is dating a band member’s sister. The band already had siblings in the band.
They still don’t have a Womack though.
What they do have is deep roots into the American musical soil, and a knack for expressing that in a distinctive, one-of-a-kind sound.  Bowling Green audience got a taste of that in June when the band played a we received set that covered the gamut of Americana. At one point they joined together a spunky original that segued to an old gospel tune before alighting on a cover of Paul Simon’s “Diamonds in the Soles of Her Shoes.”
The Womack Family Band returns to Bowling Green for a will perform a main stage show at the Black Swamp Arts Festival Sept. 7 at 12:20 p.m. They will also play at least one more set on another of the festival’s stages.
In a recent telephone interview Tony Schaffer said the band’s name was a tribute to Nashville singer-songwriter Tommy Womack.
Schaffer said he played a gig opposite Womack a few years back. “We hit it off and he gave me some sound advice from someone who had been in the business,” Schaffer said.
“Stay in college,” the veteran musician told him.
“I did the exact opposite,” Schaffer said. “I dropped out of college and formed the Womacks and things have been getting surprisingly better every since.”
The band came together around a group of friends — siblings Haley and Noah Heyman, Cory Webb and Schaffer —  who had known each other going back to childhood in the Norwalk area. They went to the same babysitter.
They absorbed the shifting currents of American music. That may have been the sounds of Steppenwolf blasting from a Cutlass Supreme. Or it may have been the pop hits of the 1990s, or the classic sounds of James Taylor.
Or the heavy metal music Schaffer and Noah Heyman played together in high school.
The result is a sound that is hard to characterize. “Americana,” Schaffer said, is the term most often used. ““What that implies to us is a vast melting pot of sounds and influences from Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald to the Beatles and Talking Heads,” he said. “It’s all fair game... We try to fuse all those styles together into something cohesive.”
If the Womacks perform a “smoky jazz tune” they will be true to that style, he said, but add their own contemporary twist.
“Part of it may be A.D.D., attention deficiency,” he said. While they may envy bands that play in a clearly defined niche, “we don’t have that luxury.”
“We tell people this is roots music . It is music that sticks to the traditions of everything they’re familiar with, but we’re going to take them on a little bit of a musical adventure.”
That adventure started when the members were growing up .Webb had uncles who played drums, so there was always a set around. And the others had pianos at home. “It wasn’t a professional tradition handed down,” Schaffer said, “but there were instruments always around us, and it’s always been a part of our lives for as long as any of can remember.”
One of the distinctive features is the band’s three-part harmonies with Haley Heyman in the lead. “She’s our songbird,” said Schaffer. She’s also his fiance. And her brother is dating drummer Webb’s sister.
Webb provides the theatrical drumming that adds yet another dimension to the band’s sound, Schaffer said.  
Noah Heyman and Schaffer add a bit of metal intensity when appropriate. That comes without the darkness often associated with metal music, though. “Womack Family tries to have a positive vibe,” he said.
That helps attract a wide audience, from teenagers to retired folks. “Everyone can walk away with something.”
Last Updated on Friday, 26 July 2013 15:06

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